Mar 21 2013 - 13:37
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REPORT: Explosion hits mosque in central Damascus-Syrian TV

REPORT: Explosion hits mosque in central Damascus-Syrian TV Lebanon, news ,lbci ,أخبار central,mosque,hits,Explosion,REPORT,
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Lebanon News
                  
The Hague-based chemical weapons regulator has been asked to assist the United Nations in an investigation into a possible attack in Syria, it said in a statement on Thursday.   
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The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the allegations were serious and it would comply with the request.

Earlier, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that the United Nations will launch an investigation as requested by the Syrian government into allegations that chemical weapons were used in Syria.                     

"I have decided to conduct a United Nations investigation into the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria," Ban told reporters.               

He said the investigation will look into "the specific incident brought to my attention by the Syrian government."                      

This comes after Syria asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint an independent mission to investigate an alleged chemical weapons attack that the regime has blamed on rebels in northern Syria.                     

France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, who raised the issue in the U.N. Security Council late Wednesday, said the Syrian National Coalition has alleged that there was a second chemical weapons attack Tuesday in the Damascus area and it should be investigated.                     

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country has close ties with the Syrian government, accused France and its Western supporters of "launching propaganda balloons" and trying to delay an investigation of the Aleppo incident.                  

Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari said he was "not aware of a second attack." He said the allegation was "set up to torpedo the investigation of the real use of chemical weapons" in Aleppo.                    
               
The dispute reflects the deep divisions that has prevented the Security Council from taking any action to end Syria's violence.                    

The U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said Wednesday the Obama administration has no evidence so far to support Syria's accusations, or that a chemical weapons attack occurred at all.                 

If confirmed, the attack would be the first time a chemical weapon was used in Syria's two-year-old civil war.                   

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bachar Assad stressed that the ongoing conflict which has lasted two years in the country is a battle of “survival and perseverance”.                   

In a statement delivered at an honoring ceremony of children who were killed as a result of the conflict, Assad called on parents to remain strong as to "safeguard Syria and the nation".                  

Assad paid a surprise visit to the Educational Center for Fine Arts to honor "the families of students who were 'martyred' as a result of terrorist acts, to honor the parents himself," the presidency said on its official Facebook page.                


On the Field
               

A blast at a mosque in central Damascus on Thursday killed the high-level cleric Mohammed al-Buti, state television said.   

Buti, believed to be in his 90s, was a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad and the Imam of Damascus's historic Ummayyad Mosque.

 Syria TV, the state news channel, said a "terrorist suicide blast" hit the Iman mosque in central Damascus.    

Residents contacted in the area said they believed the explosion may have been caused by a mortar bomb which hit near a political party office.         

On the other hand, Syrian rebels have overrun several towns near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights in the past 24 hours, rebels and a monitoring group said on Thursday, fueling tensions in the sensitive military zone.               

"We have been attacking government positions as the army has been shelling civilians, and plan to take more towns," said Abu Essam Taseel, from the media office of the "Martyrs of Yarmouk", a rebel brigade operating in the area.                

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group monitoring the conflict in Syria, said rebels had taken several towns near the Golan plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed.                   

It said that on Wednesday night rebels had captured Khan Arnabeh, which sits on the Israeli-Syrian disengagement line and straddles a main road leading into Israeli-held territory.                      

Rebels also took Mashati al-Khadar and Seritan Lahawan, two villages near the ceasefire line, it said.                         

U.N. peacekeepers monitoring the line halted patrols this month after rebels held 21 Filipino observers for three days.                     

The armed struggle between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bachar al-Assad has posed increasing difficulties for the 1,000-strong U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).                    

There is growing concern in Israel that Islamist rebels may be emboldened to end the quiet maintained by Assad and his father before him on the Golan front since 1974.                           

Rebel sources say the Syrian army intensified shelling of villages in the area of Saham al-Golan at dawn on Thursday.                           

They said that rebels in the Quneitra region, next to the Golan, were stepping up attacks on roadblocks to gain more territory but added that the strategic town of Quneitra - which was largely destroyed and abandoned during Israeli-Syrian clashes in 1974 - was still in Syrian government hands.       

Rebels are also fighting to reclaim the mosque that became the focal point for protests in Deraa, cradle of the two-year-old uprising.

Situated near the Jordanian border, Deraa has become a vital battleground as it sits near Damascus, the capital. Government and rebel forces are fighting hard for control of the town, with Assad's side still maintaining the upper hand.

                        
AP/REUTERS/LBCI


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